The Northwest country is a best-kept secret in travel. Filled with spectacular mountainous landscapes, remote island communities, and intellectual arts scenes, this destination is one to visit in your lifetime.
You may find the most enjoyable time to visit is in winter, when outdoor activities such as skiing and snow-capped mountain climbing reach their seasonal peaks. This environmentally diverse, largely unspoiled part of the North American continent should not be dismissed as an exciting adventure to undertake alone, in a group or with family.
Shatter your myths of the Northwest as vast wastelands of prairies and miles of desolate forests. This region boasts some of the most exciting cities in America. Because they are not so congested as many other popular cities, travelers there will be delighted to save money on essentials like lodging and even short-term vacation rentals.
Be sure to bring an umbrella. Snowstorms may be uncommon, but these cities’ oceanic and Mediterranean climates drop a lot of rainfall in between November and February.
Start your Northwest winter extravaganza in Seattle. Home of Starbucks and Microsoft, this city’s countless coffee shops and old-fashioned bookstores are sure to keep you busy. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean guarantees some of the best seafood on the planet. Expect to taste some of the most succulent salmon and crab you ever have in your life.
The Pike Place Market is a centerpiece of the city. In the heart of downtown Seattle, residents and tourists alike can stroll through farmers markets, crafts vendors, artist booths and fresh catch fisherman’s markets. The Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo offer year-round recreation with dazzling marine animal exhibits. For more socially-conscious travelers, the Gates Foundation Visitor Center is a depot of information and resources to educate you on worldwide innovations, advancements and causes you can be part of even after you leave town.
If you are in the mood for all Seattle has to offer, Portland is the other Northwest metropolis. You will breathe easy here. Portland is a pioneer in the Green Cities movement due to such factors as its air quality, clean water supply and even a ban on paper bags.
After you have enjoyed a bike ride or brisk hike on one of Portland’s 250 nature trails and paths, get lost in Powell’s City of Books. With its main store occupying multiple stories of a building spanning an entire city block, it is the world’s gold standard of independent bookstores. The benefit of visiting Portland in winter is more snow on Mount Hood, one of the region’s most popular destinations for skiing.
The Washington State ferries are a year-round convenience to pull you from the mainland to the center of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy a lovely morning breakfast in Seattle, Port Townsend or Bellingham and then ride over to the San Juan Islands or Puget Sound with a scenic view of the ocean along the way. Or, reverse course. Book your stay on these islands and then pull into town. You can also take a short flight between them from Seattle and SeaTac International airports.
In the moderate weather, you can still enjoy the world’s best whale watching on Orcas. This part of the San Juan Islands takes its name from the orca (killer) whales who live there all year. For as low as $99, you can tour the island’s wildlife and whale communities on comfortable, well-heated water taxis and even private charter boats.
If you are an avid outdoor adventurer, you can not go wrong in the Northwest in winter. The region’s diverse geography is due to oceanic and volcanic activity, and these forces collide to produce visually-stunning natural wonders. You can simply take breathtaking landscape photos or work up a sweat hiking, skiing and snowboarding.
The highest Northwest peak is Mount Rainier, in the Washington Cascades, at 14,410 feet (4,392 m). In Colorado, you can visit Mount Elbert, the highest point on the legendary Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountains stretch for 3,000 miles from Western Canada to the Southwest United States. Other notable mountains to explore are:
- The Cascade Range
- The Coast Mountains
- The Columbia Mountains
- The Olympic Mountains
Be sure to check each state’s hunting, fishing and camping seasonal regulations and proper permits if you want to include these recreations in your adventures. Make no mistake! It is winter, but these areas remain sun-drenched through the year. Some useful accessories you may need include sunglasses, sunscreen, backpacks and plenty of water.